How can the police prove that I knew that the underage person was not 21 years old and thereby prove me guilty of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor?
Sufficiency of Evidence – Knowledge of Age
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court expressly held in Commonwealth v. Scolieri that the prosecution attorney must prove that the person charged with Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor knew that the person furnished was underage. There are two issues that arise: 1) knowledge can be proven through circumstantial evidence; and 2) the police often file both the Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor charge under the Crimes Code and the Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor charge under the Liquor Code.
The district attorney can generally only prove that a person knew that the person furnished was underage with direct evidence if the suspect admitted to the police that he knew the person was underage. Otherwise, the district attorney must present circumstantial evidence that the furnishing suspect knew that the person was underage. For example, in the case of Commonwealth v. Maloney, the Superior Court reviewed a Centre County case involving a Penn State student that was charged with Furnishing Alcohol to Minors, and the Penn State student argued that the district attorney had failed to present sufficient evidence that the student knew that his party visitors were underage. The court held that the Centre County district attorney had presented sufficient evidence to show that the student knew his guests were underage because the student knew the guests from high school, the student deliberately failed to respond if underage persons asked for permission to obtain a drink, and, when the police asked the student about the identities of his visitors, he responded that he didn’t want to provide names as he didn’t want the guests to “get into trouble.” Since the furnishing suspect knew the guests since high school, there was circumstantial evidence that he knew that they were underage. This circumstantial evidence included the furnishing suspect’s failure to actively serve the underage guests, which evidenced an attempt to avoid criminal liability for actively furnishing the underage guests. Additionally, the furnishing suspect’s intent to keep the guests from “getting into trouble” showed that he knew the guests were underage and thereby could get into trouble. The Penn State student’s conviction was affirmed by the court, meaning the court felt that the Centre County district attorney had presented sufficient evidence to prove that the furnisher knew that his guests were underage.
In Centre County, the police generally file two charges related to furnishing alcohol to minors, one under the Crimes Code and one under the Liquor Code. While the Crimes Code Furnishing Alcohol to Minors charge requires proof that the furnisher knew that the recipient was underage, the Liquor Code does not require such proof. Instead, a person charged with furnishing can be convicted as long as the recipient is underage. The underage person can even lie to the furnisher and misrepresent his or her age. As long as the recipient of the alcohol is underage, the person that provided the alcohol can be convicted of the furnishing alcohol to minors charge under the Liquor Code. The police file both charges so that the district attorney has two chances to try and obtain a conviction.